With his decision to elevate Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, President-elect Donald Trump is poised to accomplish what a Republican Congress sitting down the street from an Obama White House could not. Trump's communications director Jason Miller, citing Price's nomination and that of Seema Verma to run Medicare/Medicaid, predicted that upending the Affordable Care Act would happen quickly.
The tweet that Miller is citing there is from the Senate Republicans, which refers to data from Gallup.
Trump has repeatedly argued for repealing and replacing Obamacare — that is to say, getting rid of it entirely and starting from scratch. But while the Senate Republicans' tweet is correct that 80 percent want some sort of change to the policy, more than half (including the 14 percent who don’t even want to change it) want to keep Obamacare.
Another way to look at the numbers: Even a quarter of those who dislike the program want to keep it, albeit with “significant” changes. More than half of America disapproves of the program, but the Senate Republicans' numbers include some people who explicitly like it.
You can say anything with statistics, etc. Half of Americans want to keep it. Half don't like it. Most want change.
So let's step back and look more broadly at the politics. When we're talking about Obamacare, it's critical to remember that views of the program closely mirror views of the president himself.
Per data from Kaiser Family Foundation polling, favorability for Obamacare is highest among Democrats, middling among independents and lousy among Republicans.
“Attitudes toward the ACA continue to be highly partisan,” Gallup said about its new findings with some understatement.
We could make the same understatement about approval ratings for Obama.
The problem for favorability of Obamacare, it seems, is that Democrats were always a little less excited about it than about him. For independents, that gap was a bit wider. As Obama's approval ratings ticked upward over the course of the campaign, that was less the case with his signature legislation.
This is also why Obamacare is in such big trouble. Strong support for Obama was not enough to carry Hillary Clinton's candidacy across the finish line. It was not enough for Obama to articulate that his legacy was at risk by the election of Trump. Are those voters going to go to the mattresses now to defend it? Some, maybe. But a lot? Two and ½ times as many people want to throw Obamacare in the garbage as want to keep it as is. Those are steep odds for political actors who want to keep the status quo.
For Obamacare's successes — covering those with preexisting conditions and expanding coverage to millions more people — it never became the political boon that it was meant to be. It, like Obama himself, prompted responses that were too polarized. And come Jan. 20, it's safe to assume that it will begin its transformation into something else entirely.